When you start something it is important to know what the end goal looks like.
The end goal of discipleship is to become more and more like Jesus. The end goal looks like Jesus. This is the point of spiritual maturation, not just that you become a better version of yourself (which the world teaches and even some Christian teachers and preachers preach) but that you become more and more like Jesus.
Even before Jesus came to the earth, rabbis were discipling people to become like themselves – to take on their way of life and perpetuate their teaching. Jesus did the same thing in a fuller way than anyone before him. He could do this in a fuller way because of his identity and his authority. When Jesus finished the sermon on the mount, Matthew tells us this,
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”Matthew 7:28-29
Jesus taught His disciples to take on His ministry, His teaching, and an inner transformation by the Holy Spirit that would change their lives to be like His.
Here is how Paul said that we, as disciples, are becoming more and more like Jesus:
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”Romans 8:29
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”2 Cor 3:18
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,”Phil 2:5
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”Gal 3:27
“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection”Romans 6:3-5
“What would Jesus do?” is a powerful question but there is one that drives deeper than predicting and then imitating Jesus’ actions. We need to ask ourselves “Who is Jesus and how do I become more like Him?” Answering and leaning into that question will drive our behavior.
What does resurrected life look like? What does taking up our cross look like? We look to Jesus for the answers to those questions and then live accordingly.
The Holy Spirit’s Role
What is the Holy Spirit’s role in bringing us to maturity in our conformity to Christ?
One cannot be like Jesus without the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was part of Jesus’ conception (Lk 1:35). The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus’ miracles and ministry (Lk 4:18-19 & Acts 10:38). Jesus couldn’t have had the ministry he had without the power of the Spirit. Jesus would not have existed as a human being without the Holy Spirit.
It is by the Holy Spirit that we become “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17 and, by the way in the end Christ will make all things new – Rev 21:5) and a temple of God by the Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20) it is the indwelling Spirit who empowers God’s people today. Not only that, the Spirit transforms us to be more and more like Jesus.
Obedience is crucial to transformation
God doesn’t often transform the unwilling (at least not positive transformation). The more we walk in obedience to Christ the more we will find ourselves aligned with Him and becoming like Him. Obedience doesn’t do the transforming. God does the transforming. Obedience orients our lives in a way that opens ourselves us to see and experience the transforming work of the Spirit!
As you become a more mature disciple, it is important to keep these things in mind. It is important to submit ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is important to minister like Jesus and pass on his teachings to others and encourage them to obey Jesus (Matt 28:19-20).
Second, as we make disciples we need to start with the end in mind and then work people toward Christ-likeness rather than just work them through a plan.